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Community asked to curate at Sitka museum

The Sitka Historical Society is hoping to add a new collection to its museum: yours.

The Historical Society has begun a series of exhibits curated by members of the community. Museum staff say it’s a way to better tell Sitka’s story.

Walk into the Sitka Historical Museum on any given day, and you see a diorama of the community, Victorian furniture, old photographs – the stuff you’d expect to see in a historical museum.

What you don’t expect to see are things like the green-and-pink dress in the middle of the room.

“The dress that you just referred to is called ‘Recycled Ballerinas.’ It’s a lovely piece,” said Jackie Fernandez, the museum’s full-time curator. “It’s made out of recyclable bags from SeaMart. The bright green. I’m sure everybody recognizes those.”

Not far away, there’s a coat and tie made from Xtratuf boots, a prom dress made from more than 2,000 pieces of a phone book and another dress, made entirely from bike tire tubes. There’s a purse to go with that, made out of valve stems.

“The goal of this series is to give Sitkans a greater presence and voice in the museum,” Fernandez said.

It’s called “community curating,” and it’s not new in the wider field of museum science. But it is new to Sitka. Fernandez says she hopes it changes the misconception that museums are only for old, dusty relics of the past.

“I detest that misconception. It’s a major goal of mine to undo that,” she said. “I think there are a lot of forward-thinking people in Sitka that understand that people affect place, and place affects people. Part of a town’s history is about giving the community a showcase to tell that story and to talk about how those effects unfold, and what it means to people that live here. It doesn’t have to necessarily relate to something that’s long ago. It can, and it may, and some of our community curating exhibits will certainly showcase pieces that are from the past. But there’s more to Sitka than that.”

Fernandez says a town’s history is, yes, what happened a long time ago, but also what’s happening today. The pieces on display now – the dresses and jackets and purses made from everyday objects – are from Sitka’s Wearable Arts show, which took place earlier this year.

The next exhibit in the series will be photographs from Sitkans.

“And there are six categories for the photo contest. The first one is ‘We are Sitkans,’ and those will include photographs of people and culture in Sitka: community gatherings, people at work, people in recreational activities.”

The other categories include downtown streetscapes, nature scenes, flora and fauna, and fishing activities. There’s also a youth category for photographers age 18 and under. The deadline to submit is April 27th, and the exhibit will open in mid-May.

Members of the community will be able to vote on exhibits. Fernandez says the top three vote getters will win a prize.

Voting closed for the wearable art exhibit this week. The winners are pieces by Dora Alicia Eells, Kelsey Erickson-Kizer and Kathy Hope-Erickson, and Julien Naylor. 

 

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